Angola Votes Wrong

October 15, 1992

What if you held a free election that observers called fair in a Communist-ruled country wracked 16 years by civil war, and the Communists won? They would swear, of course, to being ex-Marxists. This is what happened in Angola. The election the United States had sought was held, and the U.S. is properly abiding by its results.

The founding president of Angola, Agostinho Neto, turned it into as close to a Communist state as African conditions allow. On his death in 1979, successor Jose Eduardo dos Santos kept his faith. Eventually, Cuba and South Africa fought a war in Angola. American aid kept two guerrilla movements alive, destroying the economy.

In the wake of Soviet disengagement, the Cubans and South Africans went home and the warring factions agreed to a peace plan involving integration of armies and fair elections. Observers have been favorably impressed by the election. Jonas Savimbi, the former U.S. client who used millions in aid to employ lobbyists in Washington to get more, was not so impressed.

As the count went against him, he cried fraud and warned that his troops would rebel again. The National Electoral Council suspended announcements but went on counting the last 15 percent of ballots. The 800 U.N. observers should investigate every complaint, but their own observations were of a fair election.

In fact the Marxist MPLA won most of the parliamentary seats and first place in the presidential count, though it was uncertain that Mr. dos Santos had topped 50 percent to avoid a run-off. The UNITA party and its leader Savimbi were a poor second. In a fair and peaceful vote, Moscow's guy beat Washington's guy.

Like many former Marxist rulers, Mr. dos Santos preaches the virtues of capitalism and democracy. So does the United States in urging Mr. Savimbi to accept the election results and pursue his grievances by legal means.

Angola has come through a war with 300,000 dead and a million displaced. Mr. Savimbi has many friends in Washington, curiously in conservative circles, considering his own radical rhetoric. They owe him the counsel to accept the results of the election with good grace. As for holding Mr. dos Santos to his democratic and free-market word, the International Monetary Fund will do a better job of that than anyone with guns.

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